This past Wednesday, a group of 14 North Carolina educators were arrested as part of a demonstration that ended up as a “sit-in” on a busy Raleigh road.
As WNCN.com reported, a larger group of educators started a two-day march from Durham to the capitol building on Tuesday (http://wncn.com/2016/06/15/mccrory-wont-meet-teachers-who-march-to-his-office-today/).
The march was planned to build awareness to what organizers believe are unfit learning environments for North Carolina students.
About 50 or more teachers, school counselors, parents and students say their plans are endorsed by the North Carolina NAACP and Forward Together Moral March. The march started in Neal Middle School in Durham and also from Wakefield High School in Raleigh.
The group reached the capitol around 5 p.m. and began knocking on the building’s doors.
After not getting an answer, the group began to march on downtown streets, blocking them.
Needless to say that was a busy intersection. And it got the attention of a lot of news outlets, which is part of the reason for having the demonstration.
Fourteen teachers/educators were arrested. I am unsure of what will come from their arrests, but to many they just became heroes for their schools and for their students. Simply put, it takes guts to do what they did. Their students and communities will look at them and see them fighting for them.
I have met some of those teachers in that demonstration. They work in tough schools. They know what is happening all too well. They are good people. I would want my kids as their students.
Some people will no doubt say they went too far, were demanding attention from the governor on too short of notice, and were acting selfishly in stopping innocent people from getting home during rush hour. We can talk about that for a long time, maybe while we are stuck in traffic.
Yet it was the reactions from McCrory’s staff that made me realize why having demonstrations for public schools like this are very important. BECAUSE IT PUTS THE DIALOGUE ABOUT SCHOOLS IN THE PUBLIC’S EAR!
Three specific people stood out in this standoff (aside from McCrory), and their words and lack of actions show the disconnect that people in office have when it comes to the governor and the General Assembly’s actions concerning public schools.
First, there was Catherine Truitt, the Senior Education Advisor for McCrory. She offered to meet with the demonstrators and maybe they should have taken her offer, but she is really another shill for the GOP mainstays. One of the reasons that the demonstrators were wanting to meet with McCrory was because of the per pupil expenditures that have gone down in the past three years.
She was quoted as saying by abc11.com (http://abc11.com/politics/14-arrests-made-in-raleigh-as-teachers-protest/1385439/),
“We are doing a great job of educating our students and 57 percent of our general fund goes right into education in North Carolina, which is higher than the national average.”
One needs to take that comment in context. Mrs. Truitt wrote a much uninformed op-ed for EdNC.org this past March where she “explains” how the governor has been very pro-public education. You should read it (https://www.ednc.org/2016/03/25/the-truth-on-education-spending/)
I wrote her a letter back and posted it on this blog after not receiving an answer from her. It remains the second most viewed item on caffeinantedrage.com out of over 70 postings.
Her quote about the 57 percent was the very same item she bragged about in that op-ed. She seemed to forget that our state’s constitution actually stipulates that we spend that much for public education. In fact, that percentage was higher before the governor took office under other republican governors. You may read my response to her here with all of the sources cited. (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/03/28/open-letter-to-catherine-truitt-senior-advisor-on-education-to-gov-pat-mccrory-concerning-her-op-ed-on-march-25th-on-ednc-org/).
But remember, Mrs. Truitt has a job to do. She is speaking on behalf of a politician. Yet, I doubt she read any responses to he claims earlier which might be the reason she keep making the same uninformed claims.
Secondly, there was Dallas Woodhouse, the NCGOP Executive Director. He was quoted as saying in the WNCN report,
“What a bizarre group of union activists, blocking traffic and getting arrested to apparently protest Governor McCrory on raising teacher pay more than any other state over the last three years.”
Union activists? There is no union in NC, Mr. Woodhouse. You want to see union activists? Go to Chicago. Those are unions. In fact, those union activists have shut down one of the biggest school districts in the nation overnight. That’s power. But it is interesting that the very people you claim are union activists whom the NCGOP called “hardly newsworthy” became very much the night’s news.
Another point that Mr. Woodhouse brought up was the “raising teacher pay more than anyone else over the last three years.”
What he is referring to is that “average” teacher pay in North Carolina was increased by putting most raises in the hands of beginning teachers and not veteran teachers. He forgot to delineate between average teacher pay and actual teacher pay.
And the operative word here is “average.” Beginning teachers saw an average pay hike of over ten percent, yet the more years a teacher had, the less of a “raise” was given. The result was an AVERAGE hike of 6.9 percent, but it was not an even distribution. In fact, some veterans saw a reduction in annual pay because much of the “raise” was funded with what used to be longevity pay. And as a teacher who has been in North Carolina for these past ten years, I can with certainty tell you that my salary has not increased by 6.9 percent.
Also according to the most recent NEA report there is not much “growth” in NC’s educational condition. We are 48th in Percentage Change in Average Salaries of Public School Teachers 2004-2005 to 2014-2015 (-10.2) – Table C-14.
Furthermore, those raises in teacher pay included the elimination of longevity pay which all public sector employees receive, EXCEPT TEACHERS. What really happened was that the NCGA took money from the pockets of educators and then presented back to them in the form of a raise all the while promoting it as a commitment to teachers. It’s like robbing someone and then buying them a gift with the stolen money and keeping the change.
Like Mrs. Truitt, Mr. Woodhouse is reciting practiced half-truths like he is paid to do.
An old friend, Mr. Ricky Diaz, was also referenced in the WNCN report.
Following the arrests, McCrory campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz issued a statement that called the demonstrators “union-funded campaign surrogates.”
“Not only did this demonstration inconvenience drivers, it wasted law enforcement resources during rush hour,” Diaz said in a release. “If Roy Cooper is in charge of enforcing the law in North Carolina, why would he send his campaign surrogates to break it?”
Diaz is the campaign spokesperson for McCrory’s reelection campaign.
Remember him? He was the 24-year old former spokesman for the DHHS in NC under Dr. Aldona Wos. He received a substantial raise soon after taking the job. He was making over $80,000 to be a spokesperson in what turned out to be one of the most disastrous DHHS administrations in recent history. When that raise was brought to light, he resigned to pursue a job in Washington D.C.
And here he is again getting paid to say weird things probably for a substantial salary.
According to Diaz’s quote, Roy Cooper is coercing the non-existent NC teacher’s union to fund demonstrators who eventually block traffic? The same demonstrators who were “hardly newsworthy”? Interestingly enough, Mr. Diaz used Cooper’s name more than his boss’s name in the report.
But now I see why he commands that big salary. He has to speak for the governor, who never speaks to any group that questions him.
Did the governor defend HB2 to the LGBT community face to face? No. Did he go to his hometown as the former four-term moderate mayor to explain why HB2 struck down their local ordinance? No. Did the governor defend his lack of action against Duke Energy in the wake of the coal ash spills to the people who were affected most? No. Did the governor defend those who were seeking more explicit explanation on how fracking could hurt rural environments? No. Has the governor ever actually addressed the North Carolina Association of Educators? No.
Did the governor respond to the demonstrators’ request for a meeting when an invitation was extended well before the actual march began in order to give him time to accept or decline formally? No.
Rather, he has others explain his actions or lack thereof. And all Mrs. Truitt, Mr. Woodhouse, and Mr. Diaz did was make the arrests of these 14 educators that much more important and newsworthy. Their non-answers prove that the questions raised by the demonstrators actually need to still be answered and that someone has to take responsibility.
Gov. McCrory should be willing to meet with the demonstrators. He needs to explain his actions. As a man who actually went to college to study to become a teacher, the governor should be very willing to talk to teachers and other educators about the state of schools.
But until then, the governor and those who “voice” his answers are just being roadblocks in the process of delivering a quality education to all North Carolina students.
And in Raleigh, creating a roadblock gets you arrested.